Growing up, sleep was considered paramount in my family home. My siblings and I didn’t have many house rules – bedtimes were flexible, we had free reign over microwaved TV dinners (this was the 1980s), and video games. But one thing was always crystal clear: we couldn’t disturb an adult, or another kid, who was taking a nap.
As I got older, I was in for a rude awakening. Apparently, society looks down upon napping in the adult working world. But evidence is growing that napping can produce cognitive benefits from increased alertness to improved motor skills, perception and memory consolidation. So how do you get the best from a brief bit of shuteye?
In a study published last year, researchers found that both nocturnal and daytime sleeping improved memory consolidation for unrelated word pairs – like ‘pepper’ and ‘elbow’ – suggesting it can help if you’re trying to learn tricky-to-remember concepts. Another study, conducted at the Beijing University of Technology, examined the effect of napping on athletes after training. It found that naps could improve brain function and visual systems, and promote physical and mental recovery – a result that is in line with earlier research demonstrating that napping can facilitate motor memory consolidation.